I work at a small private business in USA, California. My family recently decided to relocate to a different city and I cannot keep working at the same company as commute time is unrealistic.

I already gave my employer a 1-month notice but my employer says on my worker contract signed, they requires a 3-month notice (this was my very first job and I didn't had much "common sense" on how to protect myself as a worker... No matter how much I regret it's already too late now...). I tried to negotiate with them and promise that I'll be trying my best to train new employee and pass on all the work smoothly to the next person. However, it's already been 20 days, and my family will be moving in 10 more days, my employer still haventn' found a new employee for me to start training.

Now the issue is, my employer is NOT willing to let me resign. I tried to negotiate with them saying I'll remotely (via phone or email) continue handling my daily work and meanwhile also help teach future new employee how to do the work; but he BANNED all my suggestions, simply saying I CANNOT QUIT.

I really don't know what to do now... If I just walk away, what will happen? Since the worker contract I signed stated 3-month notice, I'm worried that if I just walk away, he may sue me? If worse comes worst he takes legal action against me, what would be the worst scenario that can possibly happen to me?

  • 4
    This cannot be answered without knowing the location. The rules vary from country to country, and even within some countries such as the USA. Sep 19, 2018 at 23:57
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    this is in USA, California
    – Jessica Li
    Sep 20, 2018 at 3:46
  • 1
    Please edit the location information into the question. Sep 20, 2018 at 6:39
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    He can sue you for the folow of the sky in the USA - that is not relevant (and just causes him costs). You may be liable for all damages, though, which may end up ruining your life. The cost of signing a contract and not being willing to fullfill it. And try to tell a judge your family did "just move without and prior planning and such".
    – TomTom
    Sep 20, 2018 at 6:44
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    You should have asked before your family relocated.
    – paparazzo
    Sep 20, 2018 at 20:11

3 Answers 3


There is no one size fits all solution to this one. And the first thing you want to do is get a copy of your contract and discuss with an employment lawyer immediately! Please do not take anything in this answer as substitute for a proper legal opinion from a lawyer.

Now, you signed the contract and in a simple world you are stuck with it. However depending on your location and the wording of the contract there may be some ways out.

Many contracts with long notice periods allow one to pay in leau of notice. This means giving your employer some number of months worth of your salary to have them waive the notice. You would have to see if your contract allows for this.

Second if you are all out of options you may (and this is by no means certain) have a force majeure claim if the reason you need to leave is an emergency out of your control and not doing so would cause you extreme hardship, however if you want to try anything like this you will need a lawyer and will very likely end up in court.

In essence, what I am saying is there are various possibilities with varying likelihood of working and consequences but before you do anything you need the immediate advice of a lawyer, only they can tell you what to do in a manner correct to your situation and location.

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    It shoudl also be noted that "family moving" is not a force majeure and prooving that there was no long term planning at all and living in a shed to fullfill the contract is a hardship will get a lot of good laughs.
    – TomTom
    Sep 20, 2018 at 6:43
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    @TomTom Issue I have is I just don't know enough to say what might be reasonable here. If the OP's family is moving because OP needs life saving surgery in another city with continuing care for many months/years it would be sane. If they want to be close to their parents, not so much.
    – Vality
    Sep 20, 2018 at 16:19
  • It would not be sane. You do not move a whole family for one member needing surgery. Damn, my father spent 2 years in hospital in Switzerland after an accident and no, we did NOT move me out of my school there.
    – TomTom
    Sep 20, 2018 at 17:04

I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that in California an employee cannot be forced to go on working for an employer against their will. I don't know whether your employer could sue for money damages. If you have enough money to be worth protecting, consult a lawyer. However, most people on their first job and living with family do not have enough money to be worth suing, or to afford a lawyer.

At this point, given the employer's refusal to consider alternatives, you have two choices.

One would be to continue working, which would apparently involve finding somewhere to live for two months. You could, for example, see if a friend's family will let you rent a spare bedroom for two months. If not, maybe couch-surfing.

The other is to give the employer a letter stating the last day you will be available to work, and make it clear you are leaving at the end of that day, regardless of what the employer says. There is some chance that your offered compromises will look better to the employer once it is clear that the alternative is no help at all from you after the end of the one month notice you have already given. If not, you still walk out.

If you do reach a compromise, you should get two things from the employer in addition to your wages for the two months, agreement not to sue, and a reference.

  • 1
    Compromises in writing, with an audit trail, will help in any legal case, showing that you have been "reasonable"
    – Mawg
    Sep 20, 2018 at 9:12

It's a bit late for OP, but in general you would try to convince your employer first to let you go (which often makes sense, because the employee will not be very motivated to do a good job, and what can they do if they don't like his work? Fire him? ). OP did that, didn't work.

The second thing would be to contact a lawyer and have him check if you can get out of that contract, and what it will cost you. You might have a chance to get out for free if the notice periods for employer and employee are different, or if the law in your location says so. Otherwise, not fulfilling your contract might be expensive.

And the third unfortunate choice is renting a cheap place near your workplace, or stay with friends, and be with your family weekends only, until your contract is over. Given the situation, I'm not sure how much enthusiasm at work your employer is expecting from you.

And of course everyone should be aware of their notice period. If the notice period is long, then you need to give notice a long time before moving. In the EU, long notice periods (both for employer and employee) are not uncommon, and rarely cause problems because everyone knows to plan around it. And most people see it as protection.

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